The best game of the 2019 NLL season was fittingly the last one after a wild six months of lacrosse culminated in an explosion of amazing plays all over the floor, ending with a final perfect shot by Rhys Duch to win the NLL Championship for the Calgary Roughnecks over the Buffalo Bandits in overtime.
What an amazing scene as Duch and the Calgary players threw their equipment into the air and the 17,000 strong Saddledome crowd could finally celebrate after one of the wildest and exciting games I have ever watched. Both the Buffalo Bandits and Calgary Roughnecks showed why they were the last two teams standing as they made clutch play after clutch play and players on both teams were selling out to give their team a chance to win. Let’s take a look at how Calgary was able to beat the Bandits in only two games and hoist the NLL Cup.
If Game 1 was a low scoring defensive battle where the teams were figuring each other out, Game 2 was the exact opposite. Both teams put on an offensive show and were not afraid to push the ball in transition like they seemed to be in the first game. It was definitely a game of runs as the Buffalo Bandits jumped out to a 5-3 lead at the start of the 2nd Quarter, but then the Roughnecks made it 9-6 going into halftime. Buffalo tied it 9-9 in the 3rd Quarter thanks to some clutch goals by Chase Fraser and Jordan Durston.
Toe. Drag. Swag. ?@jordanDurston8
— NLL (@NLL) May 26, 2019
In the fourth quarter, both teams traded goals until it was tied once again after Dhane Smith fired his first goal of the game past Christian Del Bianco with less than four minutes left. Penalties were a huge factor throughout the game as Buffalo was 4-for-5 on the power play and Calgary was 5-for-5.
Both Buffalo and Calgary had chances in 5-on-5 and in transition in the final minutes, but both Matt Vinc and Del Bianco made clutch saves to keep it tied. It was not until Del Bianco scooped up a rebound and made what has to be one of the best passes in NLL Championship history all the way down the floor to a streaking Dane Dobbie who scored a diving goal with a defender all over him and less than a minute left. What is even crazier is that Del Bianco passed it before Dobbie was even on the floor.
— NLL (@NLL) May 26, 2019
With Calgary less than a minute away from victory, the Bandits continued to their determined play as Corey Small picked the top-left corner tying the game and silencing the crowd. After a quick opportunity by Calgary was stopped, the game headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Bandits had multiple chances to win, but the play of the Roughneck defense and Christian Del Bianco kept the ball out of the net and even Zach Currier had to jump behind Del Bianco on one rebound shot to keep the game alive. Calgary gained possession on a huge loose ball by Currier to call a timeout and draw up a play. The Calgary offense swung the ball to Curtis Dickson who hit a post, but they were able to corral the rebound and Riley Loewen passed the ball to Rhys Duch who buried the game-winning goal short side on Matt Vinc.
Rhys Duch in OVERTIME!
— NLL (@NLL) May 26, 2019
What an insane, dramatic and fun lacrosse game to end the season on. An amazing moment was Calgary Captain Dan MacRae opting to give the trophy to Assistant Coach Bob McMahon to be the first one to raise it after McMahon has been coaching in the NLL for more than 20 years and finally won his first NLL Championship. Also, Dane Dobbie saying that Christian Del Bianco deserved the Playoffs MVP award for the 2019 NLL Championships — and not him — just showed how close this Roughnecks team is and how much they deserved to win this championship.
Who better to score the game winning goal than Duch who had been let go by the Vancouver Warriors for practically nothing before the season, but found a new home with the Calgary Roughnecks and helped bring them their first championship since 2009.
Some of the performances that stood out during the game were those of Zach Currier, Chase Fraser, Dhane Smith, the two goalies, and of course the NLL Playoffs MVP Dane Dobbie. Currier seemed to get every looseball near him finishing with 13, scored a diving goal, and made a huge play in overtime to get Calgary the ball. Fraser was one of the few Bandits who was able to beat Del Bianco and was big on faceoffs. Dhane Smith was not getting his usual looks, but made a difference with his passing and his willingness to go out the back door on defense at the end of the game to try and spark transition. Both Vinc and Del Bianco were incredible, but Del Bianco was one save better. Dobbie capped off his MVP season with another huge performance as his goals, especially his last one in the fourth quarter, proved to be one of if not the biggest difference for the Roughnecks in the championship game.
Congratulations to the Buffalo Bandits on an incredible season in their return to the NLL Finals and an even bigger congratulations to the Calgary Roughnecks for winning the 2019 NLL Championship.
Thank you to everyone who followed along all season and we look forward to another amazing NLL season in 2020.